Specialist Vehicle Restoration
5th April 2022
Unfortunately we must announce that the business is now closed; due to the passing of Bryan, following his long battle with Cancer.
Stock items may still be available by email request to firstname.lastname@example.org, but please be aware that we cannot guarantee response times to these enquiries.
We would like to take the opportunity to thank his many long standing customers for your custom and friendship over the years.
Monte Carlo Challenge continued...
A relatively late departure from Annecy at 10.17 hours meant that we were not under pressure, but upon checking the car we knew that we might encounter problems with the prop-shaft joints and also maybe brake failure. Our ultimate aim was to complete the event and see every check point through to Monte Carlo, and we were determined so do this. When Roger reported that the engine temperature was rising, we came to the conclusion that it could be the cylinder head gasket that was starting to blow. We had to stop, and with the bonnet up we decided to tighten the nuts as opposed to undertaking an entire replacement of the gasket. Immediate roadside repairs were thus undertaken, and a local shopkeeper gave us water to replenish the radiator. and we were off again.
Fourteen checkpoints later, and after having made a second navigational error by missing a sharp lefthand turning (as many other crews did), we established ourselves on the correct route along the pass above the Grand Canyon du Verdon (second only to the Grand Canyon in America). Unfortunately, due to a slower vehicle in front of us, we were held up and lost a vital 14 minutes to the next checkpoint.
By now it was dark, being around 19.00 hours, and being in an open car we were starting to experience the cold. Sisteron, our night stop, was still 43.5 kms away, and the road was very twisty, narrow and icy, with great care having to be taken - a long way when one is cold and hungry! Driving into Sisteron in the dark it looked beautiful, and a nice place to visit on a leisurely basis, but we were soon parked and checked in at the Control. Our priority was a quick check over the car and to pump grease into the noisy prop-shaft joint. By now Roger had got used to driving without any brakes, which had rendered themselves virtually redundant.
Although we had checked in at 20.30 hours, we had to be ready for the final stages at 00.47 hours, and in this time the car (and us) had to be refuelled and we had to snatch an hour or two's sleep. At midnight we awoke and got suitably dressed for what promised to be the coldest section of the event. Other competitors came and offered sympathatic comments, admiring our determination. With layers of thermal underwear, one piece suits, extra socks, fur-lined boots and heater pads stuffed everywhere, we were ready to go.
At 00.47 hours the sky was clear but the temperature was well below freezing as we were flagged away from Sisteron towards the Pres Bleone Control. Coming up a narrow winding road and trying to refold the map in very cramped conditions, disaster struck - my notes which were to take us right through to Monte Carlo blew out of the car. There was nothing for it but to work directly off the map.
The night was now starting to seem long, and the narrow mountain roads seemed never ending, but I must mention our admiration for the poor marshals standing out in the bitter cold checking the cars. At Control 32V Bge. de Castillon, cold and tired, I was handed my lost notes by one of the marshals who had noticed them lying on the road, which helped us on the latter part of our journey. At Control 34V at Entrevaux we refuelled, as we knew that the last three sections were going to be high in the mountains. The following 64 kms proved to be both hard and tiring, and both Roger and I were tired as we climbed to the Col de la Couillole at 1678 metres, virtually all the way in first gear with the engine revving at 4,500rpm. There was ice on these narrow roads, but we had a headlamp bulb failure and, running on a six volt system, our vision was immediately impaired. We passed silent ski resorts and completed the Secret check high in the mountains, where to see two marshals was a welcome sight.
Our aim was to make every control, complete every Secret Check, ensure that all the Regularities were undertaken, and to finally reach Monte Carlo. A final dash to the following two Controls saw us a further 30 minutes late for CH37V, so we didn't get our card stamped as this would have incurred further penalty points. We then had the final climb to the Col de Turini at 1604 metres - first gear all the way with Roger limiting the revs to 4,500rpm. The minutes were ticking by, and unfortunately against us. We made it, but had no time for breakfast as we were now against the clock and had to get to the final control on the ramp at Monte Carlo.
From Turini it was all downhill, and with the prop-shaft constantly knocking as it wasn't under load, we wondered if we would actually make our destination. Unbeknown to us, we were the first car to arrive on the ramp on the habourside - what a feeling! One has to experience it to understand.
We had made it to Monte Carlo, completed every leg, Regularity and Secret Check along the route, losing 2 hours and 57 minutes over the whole event, finishing third in class only to be beaten by Jaguar XK 120 and an Alvis with an overall time differential of 20 minutes. Out of 186 competing cars, we came 47th overall.
The culmination of the event was a Gala dinner held in the Rainier motor Museum in the centre of Monaco, where Stirling Moss and his wife presented the awards to the winning teams. A splendid finish to a great Monte Carlo Challenge - the toughest winter class rally - and proving that today, as in the 1930's, the Austin Seven is a car to beat. My thanks go to Roger Gourd, a brilliant driver with whom I can honestly say I did not feel nervous on any occasion, and to Peter Maguire who prepared the car.